NASA, SpaceX, Jared Isakman studying the extension of the Hubble Telescope

This 1990 image shows the Hubble Space Telescope being deployed from the Space Shuttle Discovery on the STS-31 mission.

Source: NASA

SpaceX and billionaire astronaut Jared Isaacman are teaming up with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration to study whether a special mission could extend the life of the famous Hubble telescope.

NASA signed an agreement with Elon Musk The company and the Polaris program, headed by Isaacman, are to study the possibility of using a SpaceX spacecraft to dock with the telescope and change its orbit in an effort to increase its lifespan, the parties announced Thursday.

NASA Chief of Science Thomas Zurbuchen said during a press call that SpaceX approached NASA with an idea “a few months ago.”

“Hubble is amazingly successful — it’s healthy, it’s doing great scientific work as we speak,” Zurbuchen said.

NASA expects the Hubble telescope to be out of service by the end of this decade based on its current low orbit. The spacecraft has three gyroscopes that stabilize it, according to the agency. If Hubble were moved to a higher altitude, closer to where it began its time in space, NASA estimates that the telescope could operate for another 15 to 20 years.

“It is entirely appropriate that we look at this given the tremendous value that these research assets have to both us and others,” Zurbuchen said.

Zurbuchen said the agreement between NASA and SpaceX does not include any “money transfer” and that “SpaceX is funding its own participation.”

The study will last six months while SpaceX studies how the Crew Dragon capsule could dock with the telescope and what modifications, if any, are needed while NASA gathers technical data from Hubble.

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Isaacman founder of payments company 4 . shiftAnd the I flew on SpaceX’s first private flight into orbit last year And they bought three more flights from Elon Musk a company – It’s called Polaris.

Although the study doesn’t guarantee a mission will be sent to Hubble, Isaacman said the potential flight “will definitely fit the criteria we’ve established for the Polaris program.”

“[Hubble is] It is probably one of the greatest exploration assets of all time,” Isaacman said, adding that “this study is broadly applicable. “

NASA’s Hubble was launched over 30 years ago And it still works, having helped astronomers make many discoveries over the decades. Notably, NASA has conducted five missions of astronauts to repair and replace parts of the complex spacecraft, using the agency’s own Space Shuttle vehicles.

Polaris Dawn mission crew, from left: Medical Officer Anna Menon, Pilot Scott Petit, Commander Jared Isaacman, and mission specialist Sarah Gillis.

Polaris Program / John Krause

The first mission of the Isaacman program, called Polaris Dawn, is set for March, with Isaacman once again leading a crew of four into orbit in the Crew Dragon capsule. The climax of the program is expected to be the third mission, which will be the first manned launch of SpaceX’s Starship rocket.

Isaacman previously set three goals for the Polaris Dawn mission: to reach the highest Earth orbit humans have ever flown, conduct a spacewalk outside the Dragon spacecraft, and use Starlink Internet satellites to communicate.

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Currently, the Polaris Dawn crew is training in preparation for launch with CNBC recently joined forces with Isaacman to test how his team uses fighter jets From his personal fleet to prepare for space flights.

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